Bannack State Park Campground

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Bannack State Park

5 mi S of Dillon on 1-15, 21 mi W on Secondary 278, then 4 mi S on county road. 834-3413

Bannack was the site of the state’s first big gold strike in 1862 and the birthplace of Montana’s government. Gold was discovered in Grasshopper Creek on July 28, 1862. This strike set off a massive gold rush that swelled Bannack’s population to over 3,000 by 1863. The remnants of over 60 buildings show the extent of development reached during the town’s zenith. When the gold ran out, the town died.

Montana’s first territorial capital was the site of many “firsts” in the state’s history. Bannack had the first jail, hotel, chartered Masonic Lodge, hard rock mine, electric gold dredge, quartz stamp mill, and commercial sawmill. Bannack’s two jails, built from hand-hewn logs, tell the story of the lawlessness that terrorized Grasshopper Gulch and the road to Virginia City. Road Agent’s Rock, just a few miles from Bannack, was the lookout point for an organized gang of road agents, toughs, robbers, and murders. The infamous sheriff of Bannack, Henry Plummer, was secretly the leader of this gang called “The Innocents.” The gang is said to have murdered over 102 men and robbed countless others during the eight months that Plummer served as sheriff. Many of their escapades were planned in Skinner’s Saloon, which still stands in Bannack today. It could not last. Bannack’s law-abiding citizens rose up and organized a vigilance group. In conjunction with a similar group in Virginia City, they quickly hunted down 28 of the “Innocents,” including Henry Plummer, and hanged them on the gallows Plummer had just built.

“The Toughest Town in The West” soon grew quiet due to the reign of the vigilantes and a population of transient gold seekers that left to follow better gold strikes. However, gold mining activity continued for many years. The reputation of Bannack lives on today in Western history and fiction, forming the basis of many Western novels and movies. Many actors in the drama of early-day Bannack went on to play key roles in Montana his- tory. The mines and placer diggings are quiet now,
but the streets of Bannack still echo with the footsteps of those who seek the rich lode of Western history that Bannack hoards like the gold once hid- den in its hills and creeks. Over 50 buildings remain at Bannack today, each one with a story to tell...from tumble-down, one-room bachelor cab-ins to the once-stately Hotel Meade. The diggin’s are quiet now, but the streets still ring with the footsteps of those seeking the rich lode of Western history that Bannack hoards like the gold once hid- den in its hills...a moment in time for modern-day visitors to discover and enjoy.

Walk the deserted streets of Bannack, and discover for yourself the way the West really was. Bannack is one of the best-preserved of all of Montana’s ghost towns. Bannack is unique...preserved rather than restored...protected rather than exploited.

Reprinted from Bannack State Park brochure.

Camping

There are one tipi and two campgrounds with 24 sites available each with a table and fire ring.  Some sites are reservable.  Activities include biking, fishing, hiking, touring, wildlife viewing, historic tours, interpretive trail, and picnicking. Vaulted toilets and water are available.  Open year-round.

Directions: Bannack State Park is located in the southwestern area of Montana. Take I-15 south of Dillon to exit #59 (Highway 278 exit.) Drive west on Highway 278 for 17 miles. Turn south onto the Bannack Road and travel four miles. Park entrance road will be on the left-hand side.

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